The voice of Malaysian migrants is no more

The voice of Malaysian migrants is no more

Voice of the underprivileged

At a very young age, Irene Fernandez, daughter of the Indian migrants, witnessed the poor condition of Malaysian workers employed in the rubber plantation sector. Her parents were part of the workforce. She began her career as a school teacher but soon became the voice of the underprivileged and led campaigns for the rights of consumers and women.

The voice of Malaysian migrants is no more

Fight against slavery

In 1991, Fernandez founded 'Tenaganita' (which means "women’s force" in the Malay language), a non-governmental organization focusing on anti-trafficking and protecting the rights of migrants and refugees in Malaysia. The organization fought for decent wages and better living conditions for the toiling workers.

The voice of Malaysian migrants is no more

A long-fought legal battle

In 1995, 'Tenaganita' published a report on the situation of migrants in the Malaysian government's detention centres. A year later, the Malaysian government lashed out at Fernandez for 'maliciously publishing false news.' The subsequent trial against her lasted for 13 years - the longest in Malaysia's history. In the end, Fernandez was acquitted of all charges.

The voice of Malaysian migrants is no more

A global icon

In 2005, the late activist was given the prestigious Right Livelihood Award, also known as the Alternative Nobel Prize. Anwar Fazal, a jury member, called Fernandez an "icon for the global struggle for the rights of migrant workers."

The voice of Malaysian migrants is no more

Putting spotlight on Malaysia

After a long struggle, Fernandez, who died on March 31, 2014 at the age of 67, succeeded in putting a spotlight on rights violations in Malaysia. In this battle, she was supported by many Malaysian activists and international rights organizations.

Renowned Malaysian human rights activist, Irene Fernandez, has died of heart failure on March 31. She relentlessly campaigned for the rights of migrants and foreign workers employed in Malaysia's plantation sector.